Originally published 2/22/2017. Updated 4/25/19.
Sometimes, whether we like it or not, we have to stick to a budget.
Sure, it sucks that you work really hard and yet you still have zero disposable income, but cheer up! Not having extra money to blow on an extravagant date doesn’t mean you have to stay home.
Forget about those student loans for one night and go do something fun and cheap. Whether you’re waiting for that direct deposit to hit your account, or your budget just says “heck no, girl,” here are a few ideas for a special night out that are super cool and easy on the wallet.
1. Tour the topiaries
Whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall, The Topiary Park in the heart of downtown Columbus is always worth a trip. Based off of Georges Seurat’s famous painting, the manicured bushes are just as much art as they are plants. The Topiary Park has an old-timey vibe, so channel that inner-Downton Abbey, pack a picnic, and get out there. Located at 480 E Town St., the Topiary Park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
2. Get a little competitive at a game bar
From old arcade games to giant Jenga, the bar scene in Columbus has plenty to do for super cheap. If you’re in search of a $20 date, hit up happy hour at Pins Mechanical Co. or 16-Bit Bar+Arcade. You and your date can each enjoy a cheap drink while you play free games.
3. Take a walk along the Scioto Mile
The Scioto Mile is one of the most romantic spots in Columbus. Hear me out. It’s got killer views of the city, there is a fancy promenade you can walk along, and when the weather is nice, there are tons of free events taking place. That’s a win-win-win, people. Fair warning, parking can be a challenge, so, find the best place to park here.
4. Catch up over coffee
In my opinion, there’s nowhere better to go on a date than an awesome coffee shop. Unlike crowded bars, you can take your time over coffee. It’s also great if your date night is actually a morning or afternoon date. My personal obsession right now is Mission Coffee Co. in the Short North, but there are tons of amazing independent coffee shops to chose from. This date isn’t free, but it’s definitely under $15.
5. Visit the Columbus Museum of Art
A fan of fine art but not a fan of having to open your wallet to see it? No problem! The Columbus Museum of Art has free admission on Sundays, which will be perfect after you overspend at brunch. Exhibits change on the reg, and they seriously have something for everyone. The Columbus Museum of Art is located at 480 E Broad Street and they are open on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
6. Catch a free movie
Tons of theaters in and around Columbus host free movie events like the America’s Greatest Films series at the historic Drexel Theatre. With great opportunities like this you can see a movie for free, but still get out of the house and have that great movie theater experience. May 7 will be the next free movie event and it’s one of my all-time favorites, Pulp Fiction (1994).
7. Escape to the Chadwick Arboretum
Nestled throughout The Ohio State University campus lies 60 acres of gorgeous greenery. The Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens are romantic, educational, and just plain pretty. Even if you’re not a huge fan of plants, it’s a great place to enjoy a little quiet time. Plus, it totally smells amazing. The Chadwick Arboretum is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and it’s free to visit.
8. Explore German Village
German Village has many awesome places to explore from Schiller Park, to the Book Loft, or Golden Hobby Gift Shop. If you’re visiting in the summer and early fall, you can catch a free performance Thursday-Sunday at Schiller Park by the Actors’ Theatre of Columbus. If your date is up for a little adventure, you can head down to The Book Loft, where the 32 rooms will keep you occupied for a while. The Book Loft is great for night owls, as it’s open until 11 p.m.
9. Go for a hike
I live downtown, and every now and then I find myself wishing it was quieter. I love the convenience of my neighborhood, but sometimes, my husband and I just like to get out into nature for a bit. Luckily, we don’t have to go far. Columbus has 22 beautiful and unique Metro Parks to choose from in and around the city. You can hike through some of the most scenic areas in Central Ohio, observe wildlife, and participate in tons of free activities through the park system. Seriously, it’s a great date.
10. Check out some live music
The music scene in this city is pretty great. There are constantly free or very cheap shows going on around town. You’ll find bands at festivals, concerts, bars, and basically everywhere in between. One great way to keep your finger on the pulse is to sign up for our Newsletter. Every Monday, you’ll wake up to a weekly concert schedule, which includes a variety of shows.
Okay, so now you have no excuse. Go out and have a little fun. You deserve it.
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